INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosier anecdotes and stories punctuate Gov. Mitch Daniels' new book, which will be released today.
Although he focuses on the debt crisis the United States faces, the governor uses his own experience at balancing Indiana's budget as a playbook of sorts.
And he isn't afraid in the last chapters of "Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans" to suggest major changes for Medicare and Social Security.
Daniels told The Journal Gazette during a Monday morning interview from New York that the book was never about running for president, which he decided against in May.
He wrote it to lay out the arithmetic behind the nation's growing debt.
"I don't think enough people have grasped how really massive the problem is and how big the change that needs to come is," Daniels said.
He also weaved in a fair amount of Indiana tales – from improving the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, leasing the Indiana Toll Road, overhauling property taxes and the failed contract with IBM to modernize the welfare intake system.
Daniels' memory of the big moments during his tenure is mostly on target, though he sometimes leaves out pertinent details.
For instance, he twice boasts about reducing Indiana's property taxes by an average of 30 percent under the largest tax cut in state history. But he left out that Indiana's sales tax was raised to 7 percent – one of the highest in the nation – to offset some of the reduction.
"I should have mentioned that while still underscoring the net," Daniels said.
He also touts the privatization of the New Castle Correctional Facility – saying the management "has had a stellar record, with zero escapes and fewer injuries than Indiana's traditional prisons." But he didn't mention an April 2007 riot at the prison that garnered national headlines partly because it involved inmates from Arizona that the private operator imported.
The book includes some interesting anecdotes that are not commonly known to the public.
For instance, he said his "young efficiency raiders" decided to auction some of Indiana's fleet of vehicles after placing pennies on the tires of all the vehicles in the state garages. When they returned a month later if the penny was still there, they said, "give me the keys."
Daniels also talks of the only time he ever met now-infamous former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a meeting of the nation's governors in Philadelphia soon after President Obama's inauguration.
He said to Blagojevich, "your phone must be ringing off the hook with the vacant Senate seat appointment coming up." To which Blagojevich responded, "Yeah, every SOB in Illinois thinks he ought to be a United States Senator."
Five days later, the FBI arrested Blagojevich on charges that he had sought bribes to make the appointment.
The end of Daniels' book includes some suggestions for saving Social Security and Medicare, such as means testing Social Security and moving Medicare to a health savings account system rather than an open-ended entitlement.
Daniels said those suggestions are getting the most attention so far from readers.
"It's not a manifesto in which I say, 'I've got the answer,' " he said. "I'm just someone who is alarmed and believes American citizens can be spoken to as mature thoughtful citizens. I'm for doing something and these are my ideas. If you have a better idea let's hear yours."